Cross-compliance brings cows in

“The wet autumn has shown how difficult it is going to be to use valuable late grass without breaking cross-compliance regulations,” says Ron Breese.


“After a week of heavy showers there was a risk of severe poaching, so only a small number are still out on some very dry land.”


Housed cows are being fed only big-bale grass silage, while their calves are being creep fed about 1kg a head a day of concentrate costing 124/t.


The 24 cattle due to be sold in January are getting a small amount of the same pellet, which is spread on top of a mixture of equal amounts of grass silage and wholecrop barley and peas.


“The whole-crop is a little wetter than we would like, but it is lovely stuff and the cattle really go for it.


They are putting on weight and look very fit.”


Normally there would be many more store cattle to sell after the turn of the year, but the family decided that it was better to market some early to reduce the winter feed bill.


“The finished beef trade is on the floor and prices are unlikely to improve much while so much beef is being imported.


“We thought it made sense to market some stores while demand and prices were reasonably firm.”


It seems the decision has paid off.


He was pleased with returns from the three latest batches.


Four steers weighing an average of 560kg sold for 640 a head.


Another four weighed 520kg and were knocked down for an average of 580 each, while seven heifers that tipped the scales at an average of 490kg realised 560.


“It is remarkable the way the store trade has held up against all the odds.


I would love to know how finishers are going to make a profit unless there is a big rise in primestock prices.”


Mr Breese has been far less happy about lamb prices.


A consignment of lambs reared on the farm’s salt marshes made a reasonable 2.20/kg on the hook, plus a 4 a lamb bonus.


But the last draw of 45 ordinary lambs weighed an average of 37kg a head and sold for a very disappointing 35 each.


With about 200 lambs still to sell he was tempted to try to carry them through until after Christmas.


Instead they will be given a little concentrate to get them off saturated pastures fairly rapidly.


The 200 ewes due to lamb in January will be scanned within the next week.


Past experience indicates that many of them will be carrying twins and will need supplementary feeding.


How this is done will depend on the weather.


Ewes will stay out as long as conditions for feeding concentrate out of doors are good, and they are coping with the climate.


At present both the sponged ewes and those in the main flock appear to be thriving and making good use of abundant grass supplies.


240 in-lamb ewes and 100 empty ewe lambs have been moved to overwintering land in Shropshire.


The system works very well, but the partners are concerned about the extra work that will be involved coping with the five-mile movement regulation.


“It will also apply when we move sheep between some of the blocks of land we farm.


It is just another regulation dreamed up by some bureaucrat who knows nothing about normal farming practice.”


He says that every sheep farmer he meets is confused and worried about the rule.


They are also, he claims, “sick to death” with the impact the six-day movement rule is having on normal trading.


“If I take finished sheep to market and decide to buy a ram, the farm is locked up for six days, unless I send animals directly for slaughter.


This removes one of our marketing options.”


The partners were relieved when Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Assembly’s rural affairs minister, pledged that Welsh farmers could get up to 80% of their single farm payments as soon as the window opens in December.


“It seems we could be better off than farmers in England.


Also our cash flow will be helped when we receive our Tir Gofal agri-environment scheme payments in the next few weeks.”


bobdavies@agrinews.fsnet.co.uk